Quills (2000)

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Released 12-Aug-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Black Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Featurette-Marquis On The Marquee
Featurette-Creating Charenton
Featurette-Dressing The Part
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Audio Commentary-Doug Wright (Screenwriter)
Gallery-Production Artifacts
Notes-Fact And Film
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 119:01
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (51:02) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Philip Kaufman

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Geoffrey Rush
Kate Winslet
Joaquin Phoenix
Michael Cains
Case ?
RPI $26.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Czech
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Quills is not a light-hearted movie by any means. Although it is categorised on this website as a black comedy (of which it does have many elements) this is also a heartily disturbing film that is not for the faint hearted. It is a great achievement that this movie is able to capture so much of the real life Marquis de Sade in a powerful and evocative way.

    The Marquis de Sade was born in Paris on the 2nd June 1740. His life was very tumultuous, and very short-lived outside of his incarceration. He even managed to reach the rank of Colonel in the Parisian army. Shortly afterwards, his life of incarceration began. The Marquis published many sexually explicit and incendiary novels during his time of incarceration. One of his better-known, and somewhat incomplete, works was entitled 120 Days of Sodom, or The School for Libertines as it is also known. This novel attempted to outline 120 days worth of sexual acts of all types and depravity. Even the somewhat damaged mind of the Marquis ran out of ideas at 89 days. Apparently the remaining days were made up of many extracts and short stories the Marquis never managed to publish. It is also worth noting that during one period of imprisonment during the French Revolution, the Marquis witnessed approximately 1800 beheadings from his cell... That certainly would not help an already imbalanced psyche.

    Needless to say, he was not much liked by the authorities and this is where the story of Quills begins. The Marquis (Geoffrey Rush) is institutionalised at Charenton, a church-run home for the clinically insane. The Abbe Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix) is the kindly and somewhat revolutionary, for the time, director of Charenton. Unfortunately, the irrepressible Marquis continues publishing his explicit works with the help of Madeleine (Kate Winslet), a resourceful maid working at the asylum. As is only to be expected, this incurs the wrath of Napoleon who sends the prudish, and darkly menacing, Dr Royer Collard (Michael Caine) to 'oversee' the running of Charenton in an effort to silence the Marquis.

    The ensuing battle of wills begins a downward spiral for the Marquis and all the other inhabitants of Charenton. The harder they push the Marquis, the harder he strives to keep writing, no matter what the cost to himself or those around him.

    There are many other, often amusing, sub-plots woven around the main plotline that make this a truly fascinating movie. With the very good transfer that this disc has been afforded, there is nothing I can say other than Highly Recommended.

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Transfer Quality


    This disc is afforded a very good video transfer with only a few minor annoyances.

    Presented in the 16x9 enhanced aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer matches the original theatrical aspect ratio. It is very good that we are able to view the movie as the director intended.

    I found the sharpness to be the major disappointment of this transfer. It is quite soft throughout with noticeable halos, on rare occasions, around bright objects. Having said that, I do not think this can be blamed on the transfer because I have some faint memory of the theatrical presentation also being quite soft. This could well be an artistic decision. Shadow detail is fine throughout without any noticeable problems. There is no marring of the image due to low level noise that I could see.

    Colour is quite muted throughout the movie with minimal saturation and infrequent splashes of bright colours. However, this appears to be an artistic choice. Indeed, as the movie progresses the colours become more and more muted, adding to the pervasive atmosphere as the asylum inmates spiral out of control. This proves to be a strong contrast between the bright and colourful opening scenes at the asylum.

    There were no obvious MPEG artefacts throughout the entirety of the feature. There are a few mild instance of film-to-video artefacts, namely telecine wobble, particularly noticeable around 32:00. Film artefacts are limited to a few occasional specks, but nothing of any real concern.

    There is a multitude of subtitles available on this disc. I sampled the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitling only. I found there was an unusually large amount of dialogue changed. There are many instances of a few words in a sentence being altered, often dramatically modifying the impact of the powerful language used.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 51:02. It is quite well placed and only minimally disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    This disc has a very good audio track. Given the nature of the movie, this will certainly not become your next home theatre demo disc, however, it does support the movie very well without drawing attention to itself in a derogatory manner.

    There are two English audio tracks available on this disc. They are an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Commentary. I listened to both tracks in their entirety.

    Dialogue is exceptional throughout, and there are no problems whatsoever in distinguishing speech. This is a very good thing as the movie is driven by the excellent, and often lewd, use of dialogue. There were no noticeable audio sync problems.

    The original score by Stephen Warbeck supports the movie well. It is very effective in heightening the emotional impact of the movie without drawing undue attention to itself.

    The surrounds were used sparingly overall. They were, however, used to great effect in dramatic sequences to create a palpable tension.

    The subwoofer also received minimal use throughout the feature. The noticeable exceptions to this were the small sections featuring Royer-Collard's carriage. These were used to emphatically announce the subwoofer's presence.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is a reasonable slathering of extras available on this disc.


    This disc has an animated, 16x9 enhanced menu with audio backing. It is well themed.

Audio Commentary

     This is an excellent audio commentary by the screen writer Doug Wright. It is screen specific and although there is only the one person speaking, it does not bog down. Having said that, there are numerous gaps in the commentary while the commentator allows the viewer to digest a specific scene(s). Nonetheless, this is an excellent audio commentary that is well worth the listen.

Marquis on the Marquee (7:30)

    A brief featurette on the real life Marquis de Sade and his institutionalisation. Very interesting. Presented in mildly grainy 1.33:1 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Creating Cherenton (4:27)

    A somewhat interesting look into the relationship between the script and the design of Charenton. Presented in mildly grainy 1.33:1 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Dressing the Part (7:04)

    An interview with the costume designer explaining the origins and inspiration behind the costumes. Presented in mildly grainy 1.33:1 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer (2:23)

    A short theatrical trailer of somewhat dubious audio and video quality. Presented in horribly cropped 1.33:1 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

TV Spot (0:32)

    A very short version of the theatrical trailer with slightly better audio and video quality. Presented in 1.33:1 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Production Gallery

    A series of images of production artefacts, such as letters, props, and such.

Fact & Film

    Presents an interesting side-by-side comparison between the real life characters and the movie characters portrayed in Quills.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It would appear that the R1 disc has identical features to the local release with very similar audio and video quality. The local release will be the cheaper option so I would have to recommend it over the R1.


    Quills is a superbly crafted movie presented on a technically very good DVD. This is not a movie for the faint hearted, or when you want a brainless movie romp. It demands all your attention and does not mind slapping you in the face to make a point. Excellent food for thought with a healthy serve of the real life Marquis de Sade.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are quite good but needed something more to really round out the package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Cameron Rochester (read my bio)
Saturday, August 10, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer 106S DVD-ROM with PowerDVD 4.0 scaling to 864p, using RGB output
DisplayMitsubishi VS-1281E CRT front projector on custom 16x9 screen (270cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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Comments (Add)
Muting Art - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
food for thought it is not... - REPLY POSTED